Progress Continues on Ute Lake Project

An underground blast, expected to be the next-to-last for the Ute Lake Project’s intake structure, blew through what project planners hope will be another 12 feet of rock Wednesday evening under Ute Lake’s South Shore area. The explosion occurred between 5 and 6 p.m.

Paul Van Gulick, the project manager, said the blast was expected to deepen the shaft, part of the intake structure that will direct Ute Lake water into a pipeline bound for sites in Curry and Roosevelt counties, to about 80 feet. The shaft was 67 feet deep before Wednesday’s explosion. Van Gulick said the shaft is expected to be 90 feet deep when it is completed.

While Wednesday’s blast occurred on shore, a controlled explosion on Aug. 16 went off under water and killed over 900 fish in Ute Lake, mostly shad, according to New Mexico Game and Fish officials. Over the weekend, some dead catfish and walleye surfaced in the lake, setting off more concerns about Ute Lake’s fish population.

The underwater explosion was designed to create a shelf that would anchor a valve and other hardware that will regulate the flow of lake water into the intake structure and eventually to a pipeline to carry the water south to Curry and Roosevelt counties.

The total cost for the intake structure is $14 million, Van Gulick said. The 20-year project’s total estimated cost, including an $88 million interim pipeline that will carry water purchased from private landowners to southern Roosevelt County while the Ute Lake pipeline is completed, is more than $550 million, with 75 percent expected from federal funding.

Meanwhile, the village of Logan has filed suit to prevent the project from continuing. The village has appealed a January federal court decision denying an injunction that would halt the project to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, Colo. The appellate court has given the Village of Logan an extension to file arguments and main points in its request for an injunction that would halt water project construction.

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